Mapping Out Maternity Leave: A Guide for Expecting Mothers in the Workplace
The path to motherhood is an incredible experience, and while it's easy to get lost in all its bliss (as is expected!), it's important for working mothers (or soon to be) to keep in mind that nine months isn't that far out after all. Stress is detrimental during a pregnancy, and though it's inevitable in some cases, there are some apprehensions that are avoidable -- starting with your career.
Just like baby proofing a house prior to the arrival of a new addition to prevent any accidents from happening, consider proofing the workplace, too. Four to six months prior to maternity leave, expecting mothers should consider doing the following to avoid anxiety and ultimately feel prepared:
Communicate with your manager. Set timelines for conversations and priorities, like who needs to be handling which of your responsibilities, whether or not training needs to be involved, or what the plan is if you go early. Having a timeline will hold you and your manager accountable for planning.
Map out your agenda. Jot down daily, weekly or monthly tasks. This doesn't have to include minute-to-minute details but should be a broad overview to ensure the team fully understands what each assignment entails, or how you work through a task or project. No one needs to reinvent the wheel.
Create a playbook. A binder of up-to-date activity on any project, account, client, etc., you're working on is a must. Include a summary of the latest interactions, each account's contact person and information, next steps for each project and what is due. Include passwords, usernames and any underlying information necessary. This way the team is briefed and prepared for any need that arises.
Establish guidelines and rules. Each company and maternity leave policy is different, so get with your HR department to establish communication policies of how and when you can be in touch with your team while you're out. A rule of thumb is to under-promise and over-deliver. Start off with the expectation that you'll have limited availability, and if that changes, it's a plus!
Set up strategy planning sessions. It's important to set these meetings up in advance of a maternity leave so that everything is hashed out and everyone is comfortable with the plan for when you are gone. No one wants any surprises (except knowing if it is a girl or a boy!).
If you work with clients or customers, overcommunicate. Notify your clients early on when the leave starts and the slated return date. Don't stop there! Stay connected during the leave. Set up a fun out-of-office message, send an email announcing the birth with a photo or schedule monthly emails in advance to stay on the clients' radars and continue the relationship.
Specify return strategy. Understand what needs to be done once you return to the office. The added stress isn't needed, so consider planning everything ahead of time. Coming back to a to-do list will allow you to hit the ground running.
Congratulations to all new and repeat mothers!
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